Each morning, she awoke at 4:45 a.m., pulls on her blue janitor’s smock and heads over to the college to clean from 6 a.m. to 9:30 a.m. Then she returns home to take care of her 14-month-old daughter, Alice. The day she got the call over the summer telling her she had won a prize and Alice was being fussy.
“I’d been having a rough day — up early for my cleaning job, tearing home to mind the baby, baby wouldn’t nap and was making her feelings known,”
Caitriona Lally had written a book, a book called “Egg Shells.” As described to the Post,
“Eggshells’ is about a socially isolated misfit who walks around Dublin searching for patterns and meaning in graffiti or magical-sounding place names or small doors that could lead to another world.
I spent the guts of a year wandering around Dublin in 2011, the year I was unemployed. I had been laid off from my job in the recession and was walking the streets myself looking for ‘staff wanted’ signs, and came up with the idea of my character, Vivian, who’s just looking to belong, to connect with someone.”
This I can not describe better than she, having spent a year gaffing up trees in Wisconsin, cutting them down, and chipping the wood in a malfunctioning chipper which I had to clean the chute out by hand. I still have my fingers. For one year, I managed to keep home and family in a home until I found a better job.
Caitriona’s path to literary acclaim has been marked by plenty of rejection and job hopping.
Caitriona attended Trinity College Dublin as an undergraduate student and studied English. She worked as a custodian for the college when she was a student to offset expenses.
“I spent a couple of summers working as a cleaner in Trinity,” she wrote to The Post. “I spring-cleaned student residences after they vacated them, then worked as a chambermaid when guests came to stay in the college in the summer months. The spring cleaning was tough work — a year’s worth of grime doesn’t shift easily!”
Once Caitriona realized that she won the award and that it came with a 10,000 euro prize (about $11,500), she described it as “just pure magic.”
Caitriona hadn’t applied for the award; the prize committee selects the nominees. Winners over the years have become some of Ireland’s best-known writers, including Anne Enright and Frank McGuinness.
The benefactor of the prize is Peter Rooney, who took over from his uncle, Dan Rooney, former U.S. ambassador to Ireland and chairman of the Pittsburgh Steelers, who died last year.
Caitriona said her janitor job works for her schedule as a mother and is a great fit for writing. She’s finishing up her second novel, and she’s not planning on giving up her morning work.
The author who works as a janitor had won a prestigious literary prize from the university she cleans.